Saturday, June 10, 2023  |



Weekend Review: Valero’s big day

Fighters Network

Edwin Valero is intense even when he celebrates a victory, as he does here on the shoulders of trainer Robert Alcazar after stopping Antonio Pitalua in the second round Saturday. Photo / Chris Farina-Top Rank


Edwin Valero: The Venezuelan’s knockout victory over Antonio Pitilua on Saturday in Austin, Texas – his 25th KO in 25 fights — didn’t prove much. Pitilua had solid, but not great credentials and he seemed to fold under the pressure. Still, Valero served notice in his first televised fight in the United States that he could be a force in the 135- and 140-pound divisions. Promoter Bob Arum wants to build up his reputation before turning him loose against the biggest names in the sport. Can you imagine a Valero-Manny Pacquiao showdown? Whew.


Antonio Pitalua Valero’s opponent was supposed to put up some resistance; even Valero said as much. Instead, Pitalua admitted he was tight before the fight. That might mean he was intimidated by his fearsome opponent and/or the moment. He had never been in a fight of this magnitude before. Sadly for him, he might never again. At 39, and after his disappointing performance, he probably won’t get another shot at a world title. He’ll undoubtedly continue to fight, though. He’s an impressive physical specimen for his age and won’t want to end his career on such a dismal note.


Julio Diaz: The former two-time lightweight champion was one of the stars in the lightweight division. Now, after being knocked out late-replacement Rolando Reyes on Saturday, he has suddenly become a fringe contender. He blamed the loss, at least in part, on the fact he was preparing to fight southpaw Joel Casamayor and had difficulty getting up for Reyes. However, fighters must be able to adjust when the terrain changes. Diaz apparently couldn’t do that and now must pay the price. He’s expected to move up to 140 pounds, which at least might give him a fresh start.


Rolando Reyes: The lightweight from Oxnard, Calif., agreed to replace the injured Joel Casamayor as Diaz’s opponent only two weeks ago. He reportedly did absolutely no sparring for the fight. Yet it was Reyes’ hand that was raised in victory after he knocked out the former two-time titleholder in the fifth round. Suddenly, he is a contender and in position to gain more recognition and make some serious money. He is a solid boxer who obviously has some power, as Diaz found out. Reyes might have trouble breaking through a deep field of lightweights but don’t count him out.


Timothy Bradley: One gauge to determine the mettle of a fighter is his ability to overcome adversity. Bradley scored points in that regard on Saturday, when he got up from a first-round knockdown and survived a late battering to outpoint tough, talented Kendall Holt. That makes two big victories – he upset Junior Witter last May two win the WBC junior weltweight belt — in less than a year for a fighter who was more or less unknown two years ago. Now, he’s widely regarded as one of the better fighters at 140 pounds in the world and would seem to be on the rise.


Michael Katsidis: The Australian lightweight has never heard the word “defense,” which is fortunate for boxing fans. Like Arturo Gatti, the fighter to whom some compare him, he almost guarantees an action fight every time he steps through the ropes. Against Jesus Chavez on Saturday, he took an average of two hard, punishing shots to deliver three of his own and won the fight when a beaten, bleeding Chavez quit after the seventh round. Katsidis will never be a great fighter – just a great fighter to watch. He would be the perfect opponent for Valero. The fight wouldn’t last long but you wouldn’t want to miss it.


Carlos Hernandez: The 38-year-old former titleholder went into his bout against Vicente Escobedo a shot, or so some believed. He walked out of the ring to a standing ovation in Austin. He was always an action fighter with tremendous courage but outdid him by standing toe-to-toe with a good, rugged fighter for 10 solid rounds. The hero of El Salvador probably will never fight again, which is both smart and a shame. Smart because he has already given boxing fans his best; a shame because he undoubtedly made a lot of fans on Saturday night.


Vicente Escobedo: Lost in the drama of Hernandez’s effort was a gutsy effort by the 2004 U.S. Olympian from Woodland, Calif. He was able to withstand the old man’s remarkable determination and come out with a clear decision victory. Escobedo lost confidence when he lost a split decision to Daniel Jimenez in 2007 but, training under Nacho Beristain in Mexico City, believes in himself again and could finally realize the potential he showed as an amateur. He will likely fight a contender in the near future, which would give us a better gauge of how far he might go.


Bute-Andrade: Librado Andrade outpointed Vitali Tsypko on the Bradley-Holt undercard to become the mandatory challenger for IBF super middleweight titleholder Lucian Bute, who decisioned Andrade in a controversial fight in October. Andrade put an utterly depleted Bute down in the final seconds but the belt holder survived to win. Some observers believe Bute benefitted from a long count by the referee. The rematch, which could take place this year, would give Andrade a chance to finish what he started the last time and Bute an opportunity to beat Andrade free and clear.


Valero: “No man can take my punch.”

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]